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Winston Churchill: Broadcast Regarding His Meeting With Roosevelt

(August 24, 1941)

I thought you would like me to tell you something about the voyage which I made across the ocean to meet our great friend, the President of the United States.

Exactly where we met is a secret, but I don't think I shall be indiscreet if I go so far as to say that it was somewhere in the Atlantic. In a spacious, land-locked bay which reminded me of the west coast of Scotland, powerful American warships, protected by strong flotillas and far-ranging aircraft, awaited our arrival and, as it were, stretched out a hand to help us in.

Our party arrived in the newest, or almost the newest, British battleship, the Prince of Wales, with a modest escort of British and Canadian destroyers. And there for three days I spent my time in company, and I think I may say in comradeship, with Mr. Roosevelt, while all the time the chiefs of the staff and naval and military commanders, both of the British Empire and of the United States, sat together in continual council.

President Roosevelt is the thrice-chosen head of the most powerful State and community in the world. I am the servant of King and Parliament, at present charged with the principal direction of our affairs in these fateful times. And it is my duty also to make sure, as I have made sure, that anything I say or do in the exercise of my office is approved and sustained by the whole British Commonwealth of Nations. Therefore this meeting was bound to be important because of the enormous forces, at present only partially mobilized, but steadily mobilizing, which are at the disposal of these two major groupings of the human family, the British Empire and the United States, who, fortunately for the progress of mankind, happen to speak the same language and very largely think the same thoughts, or anyhow, think a lot of the same thoughts.

The meeting was, therefore, symbolic. That is its prime importance. It symbolizes, in a form and manner which every one can understand in every land and in every clime, the deep underlying unities which stir and, at decisive moments, rule the English-speaking peoples throughout the world. Would it be presumptuous for me to say that it symbolizes something even more majestic, namely, the marshalling of the good forces of the world against the evil forces which are now so formidable and triumphant and which have cast their cruel spell over the whole of Europe and a large part of Asia?

This was a meeting which marks forever in the pages of history the taking up by the English-speaking nations, amid all this peril, tumult and confusion, of the guidance of the fortunes of the broad toiling masses in all the continents, and our loyal effort, without any clog of selfish interest, to lead them forward out of the miseries into which they have been plunged, back to broad high road of freedom and justice. This is the highest honour and the most glorious opportunity which could ever have come to any branch of the human race.

When one beholds how many currents of extraordinary and terrible events have flowed together to make this harmony, even the most sceptical person must have the feeling that we all have the chance to play our part and do our duty in some great design, the end of which no mortal can foresee. Awful and horrible things I have seen in these days.

The whole of Europe has been wrecked and trampled down by the mechanical weapons and barbaric fury of the Nazis. The most deadly instruments of war science have been joined to the extreme refinements of treachery and the most brutal exhibitions of ruthlessness and thus have formed a combine of aggression, the like of which has never been known, before which the rights, the traditions, the characteristics and the structure of many ancient, honoured States and peoples have been laid prostrate and are now ground down under the heel and terror of a monster.

The Austrians, the Czechs, the Poles, the Norwegians, the Danes, the Belgians, the Dutch, the Greeks, the Croats and the Serbs, above all the great French nation, have been stunned and pinioned. Italy, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria--have bought a shameful respite by becoming the jackals of the tiger. But their situation is very little different and will presently be indistinguishable from that of his victims. Sweden, Spain and Turkey stand appalled, wondering which will be struck down next. Here then is the vast pit into which all the most famous States and races of Europe have been flung and from which, unaided, they can never climb.

But all this did not satiate Adolf Hitler. He made a treaty of non-aggression with Soviet Russia, just as he made one with Turkey, in order to keep them quiet until he was ready to attack them. And then, nine weeks ago today, without a vestige of provocation, he hurled millions of soldiers with all their apparatus upon the neighbour he had called his friend with the avowed object of destroying Russia and tearing her in pieces.

This frightful business is now unfolding day by day before our eyes. Here is a devil who, in a mere spasm of his pride and lust for domination, can condemn two or three millions, perhaps it may be many more, of human beings to speedy and violent death. Let Russia be blotted out. Let Russia be destroyed. Order the armies to advance. Such were his decrees. Accordingly, from the Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea, six or seven millions of soldiers are locked in mortal struggle.

Ah, but this time it was not so easy. This time it was not all one way. The Russian Armies and all the peoples of the Russian Republic have rallied to the defence of their hearths and homes. For the first time Nazi blood has flowed in a fearful flood. Certainly a million and a half, perhaps two millions of Nazi cannon-fodder, have bitten the dust of the endless plains of Russia. The tremendous battle rages along nearly two thousand miles of front. The Russians fight with magnificent devotion. Not only that, our generals who have visited the Russian front line report with admiration the efficiency of their military organization and the excellence of their equipment. The aggressor is surprised, startled, staggered. For the first time in his experience mass murder has become unprofitable. He retaliates by the most frightful cruelties. As his armies advance, whole districts are being exterminated. Scores of thousands, literally scores of thousands of executions in cold blood are being perpetrated by the German police troops upon the Russian patriots who defend their native soil. Since the Mongol invasions of Europe in the sixteenth century there has never been methodical, merciless butchery on such a scale or approaching such a scale. And this is but the beginning. Famine and pestilence have yet to follow in the bloody ruts of Hitler's tanks.

We are in the presence of a crime without a name.

But Europe is not the only continent to be tormented and devastated by aggression. For five long years the Japanese military factions seeking to emulate the style of Hitler and Mussolini, taking all their posturing as if it were a new European revelation, have been invading and harrying the 500,000,000 inhabitants of China. Japanese armies have been wandering about that vast land in futile excursions, carrying with them carnage, ruin and corruption, and calling it "the Chinese incident." Now, they stretch a grasping hand into the southern seas of China. They snatch Indo-China from the wretched Vichy French. They menace by their movements Siam, menace Singapore, the British link with Australasia, and menace the Philippine Islands under the protection of the United States.

It is certain that this has got to stop. Every effort will be made to secure a peaceful settlement. The United States are labouring with infinite patience to arrive at a fair and amicable settlement which will give Japan the utmost reassurance for her legitimate interests. We earnestly hope these negotiations will succeed. But this I must say: that if these hopes should fail we shall, of course, range ourselves unhesitatingly at the side of the United States.

And thus we come back to the quiet bay, somewhere in the Atlantic, where misty sunshine plays on great ships which carry the White Ensign or the Stars and Stripes.

We had the idea when we met there, the President and I, that without attempting to draw final and formal peace aims, or war aims, it was necessary to give all peoples, and especially the oppressed and conquered peoples, a simple, rough-and-ready wartime statement of the goal towards which the British Commonwealth and the United States mean to make their way, and thus make a way for others to march with them on a road which will certainly be painful and may be long.

There are, however, two distinct and marked differences in this joint declaration from the attitude adopted by the Allies during the latter part of the last war, and no one should overlook them. The United States and Great Britain do not now assume that there will never be any more war again. On the contrary, we intend to take ample precaution to prevent its renewal in any period we can foresee by effectively disarming the guilty nations while remaining suitably protected ourselves. The second difference is this: that instead of trying to ruin German trade by all kinds of additional trade barriers and hindrances, as was the mood of 1917, we have definitely adopted the view that it is not in the interests of the world and of our two countries that any large nation should be unprosperous or shut out from the means of making a decent living for itself and its people by its industry and enterprise.

These are far-reaching changes of principle upon which all countries should ponder. Above all, it was necessary to give hope and the assurance of final victory to those many scores of millions of men and women who are battling for life and freedom or who are already bent down under the Nazi yoke.

Hitler and his confederates have for some time past been adjuring and beseeching the populations whom they have wronged and injured to bow to their fate, to resign themselves to their servitude and, for the sake of some mitigation and indulgences, to collaborate--that is the word--in what is called the new order in Europe.

What is this new order which they seek to fasten first upon Europe and, if possible--for their ambitions are boundless--upon all the continents of the globe? It is the rule of the Herrenvolk--the master race--who are to put an end to democracy, to parliaments, to the fundamental freedoms and decencies of ordinary men and women, to the historic rights of nations, and give them in exchange the iron rule of Prussia, the universal goose-step and the strict efficient discipline enforced upon the working classes by the political police, with the German concentration camps and firing parties, now so busy in a dozen lands, always handy in the background. There is the new order.

Napoleon in his glory and genius spread his empire far and wide. There was a time when only the snows of Russia and the white cliffs of Dover with their guardian fleets stood between him and the dominion of the world. Napoleon's armies had a theme. They carried with them the surges of the French Revolution--Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. That was the cry. There was a sweeping away of outworn, medieval systems and aristocratic privilege. There was the land for the people, a new code of law. Nevertheless, Napoleon's empire vanished like a dream.

But Hitler--Hitler has no theme, naught but mania, appetite and exploitation. He has, however, weapons and machinery for grinding down and for holding down conquered countries which are the product, the sadly perverted product, of modern science.

The ordeals, therefore, of the conquered peoples will be hard. We must give them hope. We must give them the conviction that their sufferings and their resistances will not be in vain. The tunnel may be dark and long, but at the end there is light. That is the symbolism and that is the message of the Atlantic meeting.

Do not despair, brave Norwegians; your land shall be cleansed not only from the invader but from the filthy Quislings who are his tools.

Be strong in your souls, Czechs; your independence shall be restored.

Poles, the heroism of your people, standing up to cruel oppressors, the courage of your soldiers, sailors and airmen shall not be forgotten. Your country shall live again and resume its rightful part in the new organization of Europe.

Lift up your heads, gallant Frenchmen. Not all the infamies of Darlan and of Laval shall stand between you and the restoration of your birthright.

Stout-hearted Dutch, Belgians, Luxembourgers, tormented, mishandled, shamefully cast away peoples of Yugoslavia, glorious Greece, now subjected to the crowning insult of the rule of the Italian jackanapes, yield not an inch. Keep your souls clean from all contact with the Nazis. Make them feel even in their fleeting hour of brutish triumph that they are the moral outcasts of mankind. Help is coming. Mighty forces are arming in your behalf. Have faith, have hope, deliverance is sure.

There is the signal which we have flashed across the waters, and if it reaches the hearts of those to whom it is sent they will endure with fortitude and tenacity their present misfortune in the sure faith that they, too, are still serving the common cause and that our efforts will not be in vain.

You will, perhaps, have noticed that the President of the United States and the British representative, in what is aptly called the Atlantic Charter, have jointly pledged their countries to the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny. That is a solemn and grave undertaking. It must be made good. It will be made good. And, of course, many practical arrangements to fulfil that purpose have been and are being organized and set in motion.

The question has been asked: "How near is the United States to war?" There is certainly one man who knows the answer to that question. If Hitler has not yet declared war upon the United States it is surely not out of his love for American institutions. It is certainly not because he could not find a pretext. He has murdered half a dozen countries for far less. Fear, fear of immediately redoubling the tremendous energies now being employed against him, is no doubt the restraining influence. But the real reason is, I am sure, to be found in the method to which he has so faithfully adhered and by which he has gained so much.

What is that method? It is a very simple method. One by one--that is his plan. That is his guiding rule. That is the trick by which he has enslaved so large a portion of the world.

Three and a half years ago I appealed to my fellow-countrymen to take the lead in weaving together a strong defensive union within the principles of the League of Nations, a union of all the countries who felt themselves in ever-growing danger. But none would listen. All stood idle while Germany rearmed.

Czecho-Slovakia was subjugated. A French Government deserted their faithful ally and broke a plighted word in that ally's hour of need. Russia was cajoled and deceived into a kind of neutrality or partnership while the French Army was being annihilated. The Low Countries and the Scandinavian countries acting with France and Great Britain in good time even after the war had begun, might have altered its course and would have had at any rate a fighting chance. The Balkan States had only to stand together to save themselves from the ruin by which they are now engulfed. But one by one they were undermined and overwhelmed. Never was the career of crime made more smooth.

Now Hitler is striking at Russia with all his might, well knowing the difficulties of geography which stand between Russia and the aid which the Western democracies are trying to bring. We shall strive our utmost to overcome all difficulties and to bring this aid. We have arranged for a conference in Moscow between the United States, British and Russian authorities to settle the whole plan. No barrier must stand in the way. But why is Hitler striking at Russia and inflicting this suffering on himself, or rather making his soldiers suffer this frightful slaughter? It is with the declared object of turning his whole force upon the British Islands and, if he can succeed in beating the life and strength out of us, which is not so easy, then is the moment when he will settle his account, and it is already a long one, with the people of the United States and generally with the Western Hemisphere.

One by one--there is the process. There is the simple dismal plan which has served Hitler so well. It needs but one final successful application to make him the master of the world.

I am devoutly thankful that some eyes at least are fully opened to it while time remains. I rejoice to find that the President saw in their true light and proportion the extreme dangers by which the American people, as well as the British people, are now beset. It was indeed by the mercy of God that he began eight years ago that revival of the strength of the American Navy without which the New World today would have to take its orders from the European dictators, but with which the United States still retains the power to marshal her gigantic strength and, in saving herself, render an incomparable service to mankind.

We had a church parade on the Sunday in our Atlantic bay. The President came on to the quarterdeck of the Prince of Wales where there were mingled together many hundreds of American and British sailors and marines. The sun shone bright and warm while we all sang the old hymns which are our common inheritance and which we learned as children in our homes. We sang the hymn founded on the psalm which John Hampden's soldiers sang when they bore his body to the grave and in which the brief precarious span of human life is contrasted with the immutability of Him to whom a thousand ages past are but as yesterday and as a watch that is past in the night. We sang the sailors' hymn "For Those in Peril," and there are very many in peril on the sea. We sang "Onward, Christian Soldiers," and indeed I felt that this was no vain presumption, but that we had the right to feel that we were serving a cause for the sake of which a trumpet has sounded from on high.

When I looked upon that densely packed congregation of the fighting men of the same language, of the same faith, of the same fundamental laws, of the same ideals and to a large extent of the same interests and certainly in different degrees facing the same dangers, it swept across me that here was the only hope, but also the sure hope, of saving the world from merciless degradation.

And so we came back across the ocean waves uplifted in spirit, fortified in resolve. Some American destroyers, which were carrying mails to the United States marines in Iceland, happened to be going the same way too, so we made a goodly company at sea together.

And when we were right out in mid-passage one afternoon a noble sight broke on the view. We overtook one of the convoys which carry the munitions and supplies of the New World to Sustain the champions of freedom in the Old. The whole horizon-the whole broad horizon--seemed filled with ships. Seventy or eighty ships of all kinds and sizes, arrayed in fourteen lines, each of which could have been drawn with a ruler, hardly a wisp of smoke, not a straggler, but all bristling with cannon and other precautions on which I will not dwell, and all surrounded by their British escorting vessels, while overhead the far-ranging Catalina airboats soared, vigilant, protecting eagles in the sky.

And then I felt that hard and terrible and long-drawn-out as this struggle may be, we shall not be denied the strength to do our duty to the end.

Sources: ibiblio